The User Agreement Trust Economy

How many user agreements have you digitally signed? With Apple, with insurance companies, with Google, with Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand random web startups? How about with Paypal — a Delaware corporation whose user agreement “authorizes PayPal to place holds and reserves at its sole discretion and does not require it to inform users of its reasons for doing so”?

The only reason you’re not getting hosed a thousand ways to Sunday by all these companies is reputation management. Hordes of unhappy customers means loss of business and an eventual sinking of the ship. Millions of us have given all our data, private information and even banking duties to companies based on onerous and unexamined user agreements. And when you’re big — Apple big, Facebook big, Google big and eBay big — a certain percentage of really unhappy customers is enough risk to tolerate. That’s why Paypal can put a 180-day hold on payments to a small percentage of their users and still dominate the marketplace. Plus, you can just settle and seal all the court cases. Welcome to Zepeda v. Paypal — just one of what will surely be many class action lawsuits to come about transparency, user agreements and company trust.